How do you unwind on an evening or weekend?
I’m an introvert so I like some quiet time on a weekend as well as spending time with my husband, family and friends.I’m also a movie lover so there is usually a trip to the cinema in there somewhere.
What is your favourite/most rewarding project you have worked on?
I’ve had the privilege of working on many rewarding projects over the years. Those opportunities have ranged from big projects such as when The Planning Institute of Australia had volunteers working in Sri Lanka after the Tsunami in 2004 and I was able to see the on-ground contribution of that work when in the country to complete the final reports, through to a local planning project in my day job in a community which really didn’t trust the process or believe in the outcomes. One of the really special moments was when a community member stood up at a meeting and said I finally trust you – you’ve been coming here to listen to us for years and you keep coming back, I believe you really do care about us. Most recently I was able to lead a community engagement process that involved an innovative game to show the community the impacts of different planning decisions. That process engaged with over 277 000 people so it was exciting to be able to see the benefits of new approaches to community engagement as I believe working with the community is critical to building better cities. Looking forward, I’m excited to have been asked to be a co-chair of a new stakeholder advisory group for UN Habitat.
What are the best and worst bits about your job?
I love the fact that being a planner means we get to help create great cities and towns. I’ve been lucky enough to hold leadership roles for many years now and I like being able to contribute to the future of my communities. I like the fast pace and the variety of what we do – I can go from a meeting at high levels of government in the morning to a community meeting in the evening through to an international teleconference with colleagues from around the world late at night. I get to see how planning functions around the world which is particularly interesting and I am very lucky to be able to lead and work at this level.
On the flip side I struggle with the lack of recognition for the importance of planning around the world. I would like to lift the understanding of the economic, environmental and societal outcomes of making good planning and infrastructure decisions for all members of the community. I think this is particularly important when we consider the allocation of limited infrastructure funding. This is something CAP is advocating for across the Commonwealth at the moment ahead of CHOGM 2020.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career and why?
I was lucky to meet a good mentor early in my career and he has pushed me, supported me and always been there as a sounding board when needed. I’ve then looked for the people who inspire me and who I can learn from. They have all contributed differently and many have become friends over the years as well. They are many and varied but some you may know include ex RTPI CE Trudi Elliott who gets in and makes things happen at high standards; Brent Toderian who is a master at explaining complicated issues and using info graphics to help people quickly understand key messages; Mitchell Silver who presents brilliantly and then inspires action and Jen Keesmat who shows the power of data in influencing change. Early lessons from Australian mentors included how to disagree without being disagreeable and that consistent, patient and persistent work will eventually win.
What is the best bit of advice you have received in your career?
My long-term mentor suggested I join the Planning Institute of Australia when I was still a graduate planner.He encouraged me to form networks, attend training opportunities and then take on leadership roles within the institute.This has broadened my thinking, lifted my capability and honed my skills.I believe that the benefits have many times outweighed the effort and time I have put into my various roles with PIA and then CAP.That work and related skills have significantly helped in my career progression and has certainly led to my roles in international planning and UN Habitat. It has also of course given me the privilege of meeting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and HRH Prince Charles on multiple occasions.
What is your favourite place?
That’s a hard question. I love travelling and experiencing new places. We’ve travelled a few times in Japan where I found Kyoto particularly special as the culture of the community requires the surrounding hills to remain unobstructed by construction – so this in addition to the beautiful architecture, fascinating culture and superb food combine to a special place.
I adore the pace and excitement of big cities such as New York, London and Paris; I’ve spent time in the Maldives which was an amazing opportunity; experienced photography safaris with animals in Africa and Madagascar; explored the superb scenery of Scotland and Wales and the history of Machu Picchu and Easter Island. I could list many favourite places in the world but I choose to live in Brisbane. We have a superb climate with sunshine all year round, an incredible outdoor lifestyle and exciting capital city with all of the opportunities that brings for things to see and do.